Mortimer finishes third in 500 freestyle

Matt Anderson

Minnesota senior swimmer Justin Mortimer said he went into his 500-yard freestyle final Thursday night feeling great.

Coach Dennis Dale said Mortimer started the race with the mindset to win it.

In the end, both Dale and Mortimer said they agree these things cost the swimmer one place in the final standings.

Mortimer finished the 500 free at the men’s swimming and diving NCAA Championships in third place Thursday night at the University Aquatic Center with a time of 4:14.45. Minnesota ended day one of the NCAAs in seventh place with 65 points.

“If I didn’t go out so fast – I felt so good – I probably would have improved my time from this morning a little bit, rebroken my record, probably gotten second,” Mortimer said.

For most of the first 300 yards, Mortimer was in second place, but by the 300-yard mark he had dropped to more than two seconds off the pace set by 500 free champion Peter Vanderkaay of Michigan. By 400 yards, he fell to third place, .59 seconds behind Tyler DeBerry of Arizona and ended the race .10 seconds behind DeBerry.

Mortimer failed to better his personal best of 4:14.21 that qualified him first in the 500 free in the afternoon preliminaries.

The good feeling that resulted from the afternoon swim translated into a fast start in the final. Dale said his quick early pace cost Mortimer second place.

“He swam to win, and he probably paid a little price for that by going out a little faster than he wanted to,” Dale said. “So then, he backed off on the fourth 100 because he sensed that he went out too fast Ö He wouldn’t have had to back off if he had just gone out maybe a half a second slower on the first 100.”

In contrast to Mortimer, junior Adam Mitchell said his conservative strategy doomed him to eighth in the 200 IM.

Mitchell has four more events to swim in the NCAAs, and the cautious approach in his first final slowed his 200 individual medley time, he said.

“That (conservative) mentality kind of got me afraid, and not where I need to be,” Mitchell said. “I need to be just not worrying about anything, go as fast as you can.”

With more swimming ahead today and Saturday, Dale said a good start in today’s afternoon session is key to Minnesota finishing the meet in the top five.

“For us, the preliminaries are crucial,” Dale said. “We’ve got to get the people in the finals that have to be finalists.”